I feel like there’s been a substantial increase in my awareness this past year or two of the various ills that plague the geek community. There was that fighting game reality show, and that aborted game jam reality show, and the various assholeries that plagued SFWA, not to mention various attacks directed at people whose work and presence online I like.
I feel like this past weekend at Sci Fi on the Rock 8 we saw some signs that that event is falling prey to the same problems. There seems to be a culture of silence rising in the organization of that event.
Maybe I’m overreacting. I only have two examples, one of which could just be my own oversensitivity.
I was explicitly instructed by the organizer of the Game Jam panel not to talk about any negative experiences I had during that event because “I have put a lot of work into this”. Maybe that’s fair. In my case it didn’t matter that much; I got most of the things I wanted to get out of the event, including, at my own prompting, an introduction to the other people working on games there. It’s a very insular event, but I’m given to understand that can happen at times at game jams everywhere.
Still, it’s unfortunate. The StartupNL events I’ve gone to have been incredibly social and have felt very dynamic at times as a result. They are emotional rollercoasters in the best sense – you put your all into a thing, and you get it back, and you feel delighted to see not only your own achievements but everyone else’s as well. I want that for games in Newfoundland and Labrador. I want it for all of the creative communities here.
Maybe it’s ok that someone wants to protect their investment, and maybe it’s ok that it hasn’t caught on in the wider community. Maybe silence isn’t to blame for anything there.
But the second incident makes me very, very nervous about silence at the con. There was the briefest of discussions about an incident with what I assume is a con-goer on Facebook. People asked about someone’s whereabouts, and it sounded like there was a bit of a panic around finding the individual in question. Very soon thereafter, the event organizer showed up in the discussion and stated that people should not be “speculating on what went on”, and that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary are now involved.
As I write this, I can no longer find that discussion. Maybe that’s a Facebook problem rather than an action by an event organizer. But if it’s not, if someone hid that discussion, then that’s a destructive silence. Scalzi’s pledge re: harassment policies holds here: if you are going to hush up problems rather than discuss them with your attendees and deal with the persons responsible in a suitable manner, that’s a huge issue.
I have heard other things about the con, things in the back office that make it difficult for anyone who wants the organization to change at all. I have concerns there, but I’m not on the committees or party to their discussions. So I will leave that alone.
I hope I’m wrong about all of this. I certainly could be. I think the con is a fantastic achievement. But I am worried about the seeming aversion to talking about what’s wrong with the event. I think that recent history shows that’s absolutely the wrong way to deal with problems, particularly in this context.